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SPECIAL: How professional racing changed the SCCA – and the world

Jeff Zurschmeide, with extensive reference to previous works by Pete Hylton
Date:
Monday, 10 February 2014
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The Canadian-American Challenge Cup

In the fall of 1966, the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs and SCCA combined forces to host a series of six races for FIA Group 7 cars – these were similar to the modified sports racing cars running in the USRRC, but without restrictions on engine size – or much of anything else.

The winners of the 1966 series show the potential – John Surtees won half the races. In the remaining contests, Mark Donohue driving for Roger Penske, Dan Gurney in partnership with Carroll Shelby, and Phil Hill driving for Chaparral, each claimed a single victory.

The following year, 1967, was even stronger for Can-Am, with 18 drivers participating in another fall series. McLaren dominated; with Denny Hulme winning five of the six races, while 1966 champ Surtees won the last race of the season. It was at the 1967 Can-Am race at Watkins Glen that Bob Bondurant suffered the devastating accident that nearly claimed his life. The 1968 Can-Am series continued McLaren's dominance, with Hulme taking three races while Bruce McLaren, Donohue, and John Cannon each claimed a single victory – though all were driving McLaren cars.

With the USRRC now in the history books, the 1969 Can-Am series dominated the world of sports racing in America, and McLaren dominated the Can-Am series. Every race was won by a McLaren car, with Bruce McLaren claiming six victories to Denny Hulme's five. That streak continued into 1970, with McLaren's team winning nine out of 10 races. Tony Dean claimed that 10th race in a Porsche 908 at Road Atlanta.

Peter Revson, George Follmer, Mark Donohue, and Jackie Oliver claimed the 1971-'74 championships before the Can-Am series took a two-year hiatus to come to grips with the changing scene in the mid-'70s. But the impact on SCCA had been made – building success on success; SCCA had been vaulted into the major leagues of professional racing.


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